GENERAL MOTORS WILL SOURCE MORE parts from North America for the Korea-developed Chevrolet Sonic small car after its U.S. production launch hits full speed, manufacturing engineering chief Ken Knight says.

“I don't think the footprint of the supply base for the vehicle will stay the same as it is today,” Knight tells Ward's on the sidelines of the Management Briefing Seminars.

The Sonic, a '12-model B-segment replacement for the Aveo in the U.S., started regular production Aug. 1 at GM's Orion Twp., MI, assembly plant. The car owes its development to GM engineers and designers at a South Korea nerve center, using the Gamma platform underpinning many of the auto maker's products in the Asia/Pacific region.

As the launch market of record, much of the content comes from there. Knight declines to specify how much.

“Quite a bit,” is all he'll reveal, but as with other global GM products more local parts will come online as production increases to ease the difficulties associated with a long supply chain.

“(Managing) inventory levels is a challenge,” he says. “As you launch you find things you need to change, and you've got a supply chain with a lot more inventory in it.”

Nonetheless, Knight says Sonic will hit full line speed on target early next year, and he stands by GM's decision to be the only auto maker building a subcompact vehicle in the U.S.

GM won a 2-tier wage rate at Orion to help make it possible to build the small car profitably. About 40% of the plant's 1,700 workers earn half the typical United Auto Workers union wage.

“We look at all the implications of the logistics on product,” adds Knight, executive director-Global and North America Manufacturing Engineering at GM.

Already, Orion has more suppliers directly onsite than other GM assembly plants, he notes.

Knight also stops short of detailing production numbers, but says GM remains on schedule.

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